Meet J. T. Kennings - inventor of time travel

Portrait by  Kip Rasmussen .

Portrait by Kip Rasmussen.

J. T. Kennings was most likely born in the early 26th century, shortly after the First Glimpse.

As an adolescent, he proved the existence of kenons (also called chronotons), authoring the The Laws of Time and other classics.  Shortly thereafter, Kennings developed the operating principles behind the Kennings Time Displacement Engine, thus leading to the First Ender Proposition and the Last War.  He is recognized as the greatest chess master who ever lived, famously defeating Vladimir Karmakov in a controversial match in which Kennings refrained from looking at the board.  Kennings is also a noted culinary expert, greatly influencing the popularization of Napoleon pastries.

It has been reported that during the Paradox of the Fifth Kind at locus 14.543.986.3.12.2465, he told a humorous story to an associate before disappearing in the explosive energy anomaly associated with the paradox.

MY "EPIC" INDIE FILM - WAS IT WORTH IT?

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William Shatner’s autograph on the 95ers movie poster…  That about says it all.

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Comic Con was awesome.  It’s where legends, upstarts, and fans cross paths.  Ali kissed Bill (on the forehead) in an epic moment of boldness that will echo amid warp trails for ages to come, and he graciously signed.  I think it says: “To Tom, Bill Shat.”

The movie screening itself went great.  We had a decent crowd and people seemed to enjoy the film (which incidentally won BEST VISUAL EFFECTS at the Con (which incidentally had over 70,000 attendees)).

After the screening, one very sweet attendee (forgive me I can’t remember her name) said: “I won tickets to the Con and I’ve enjoyed all three days.  But this was the highlight.”

There was sort of a strange nostalgia combined with a gravitational shift in the universe while the movie played for the thousandth time in front of my eyes.  A weight lifted.  With the domestic distribution deal signed, and this last massive output of energy for the Con… the “95ers:ECHOES” chapter of my life is ending.  I’m not talking about about the 95ers sci-fi universe in general (which you’ll be seeing more in this blog in the coming months), I refer specifically to the strange, painful, and joyful experience of making this particular movie in this way.  On my way home after one last panel where we had fun comparing potential apocalypses (robot vs. zombie vs. alien), I asked myself: Was it worth it?

Well, was it worth it?

I’m not qualified to summarize Ali’s challenges during this adventure, but for me… I am several years, millions of dollars, and a dozen director’s chairs behind where I had hoped to be in my professional life.  Many tears have been shed.  Many checks have been bounced.  There has been enormous waste learning things I had to learn the hard way.

Pride is a cruel taskmaster.

Countless more months were spent wearing hats I had no real desire to wear.  For years, Reaper-like fingers have hung over Ali and I as we balanced our nerves and bills against the need to shoot the perpetual “next” sequence of the movie.  The crews got smaller and smaller as the years dragged on until the final months which became a lonely procession of interminable nights.  Then followed a certain “innocence lost” as I learned, again the hard way, how the movie industry works.  And even after deals have been signed, the debt monster laughs, and must be fed.  Gradually over the last six years, the supernova of enthusiasm that started the whole thing had condensed into a black hole that was my near constant companion, a Sysiphustic stone to be—

Okay OKAY!  This is getting a bit melodramatic.  In a nutshell, it was really really hard.

But the dream!  Mustn’t it be chased?  Even in ignorance?  And the story!  Mustn’t it be told?  And though this movie only scratches its surface, haven’t the depths of it grown far richer?  And weren’t there triumphs enough to keep us going?  A good scene here, an effects shot that worked there?  Maybe maybe maybe…

But what really scintillated throughout were the people—supporters and fans, cast and crew, and especially Ali.  I have sampled the love, support, and awesomeness of a shocking assortment of cool people around the world.

I will selfishly add that in the end, I am a slightly better person than I was.  And I like to think that the world is a very slightly better place because this movie exists.  Finally, though there were many seeming cataclysms that brushed by us, Ali and I were careful to NOT sacrifice our marriage nor our kids.

…So, the answer has to be, obviously, YES it was worth it.

Thank you again for your support.  We’re already planning our next one…  Get in on the ground level! 

Here are some fun pics from the Con...

 

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DOMESTIC DISTRIBUTION DEAL FOR 95ERS

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A long-awaited moment has finally come…  95ers is officially going into U.S. and Canadian distribution…  And should be available to most of the rest of the world by the end of the year.

The “domestic distribution deal” was signed on August 15, 2013, 1700hrs, some 14  years after James and I first began pondering chronotons.

I need to applaud Japan one more time for the being the first to acquire 95ers.  (I’m sure their future will be free from timespace paradoxes level 5 or above.)  But for a domestically produced indie, the deal Alesandra and I just authorized is the “big one.”

We have a reputable and energized distributor with connections to all the big outlets.  I don’t know exactly what formats (TV, Cable, PPV, DVD, Blu-ray, etc. etc), nor what stores, channels, sites it will be coming out in, nor when, but I do know that it will be VERY AVAILABLE.  It will definitely be out on DVD sometime soon.  I will keep you apprised of the release date.

THANK YOU to the cast, crew, and supporters of 95ers.

The question I always get is: “How do you get it out there?”  Meaning, how do people put a movie together in their basement and get it out to the mass market?  The answer is: It’s a very long story…  which I will be detailing soon.

For my next project, which is freaking cool and is currently in the works, the story will be different.  The journey will be faster, smarter, and crackling with more energy between the most important people in the whole process—the audience.

In fact, we are right now gathering investors, patrons, and collaborators.    If you fit into any of these categories, contact me.

OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS:

I’ll be on SEVEN PANELS at SLC Comic Con!  They’ve sold 20,000 tickets so far!!!  Detailed schedule coming soon…

Lynda.com was recently at my house doing a behind-the-scenes documentary on the movie and the process.  It’s a huge privilege and honor and testament to the all the dedicated creatives that worked on the movie.  Should come out in November…

I’m experimenting with a more direct way to connect with fans with a Facebook fan page.  Please like it and we’ll see if it goes anywhere…

The burgeoning United Film Institute did a fun audio piece on 95ers meant for aspiring filmmakers.

Actually getting PAID for an indie film!

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So, Ali and I got a very unusual piece of mail the other day… a CHECK. People on the other side of planet Earth PAID us for our movie.

First of all, I must apologize for being AWOL for the past many weeks. Since finishing the movie, I’ve had to do something vitally important: PAY MY BILLS.  My day job required lots of attention, and they’ve been more than patient with me.  At the end of this post, you’ll see the big project I produced/directed for them.  And I’ve also been waiting for some cool movie news to share…

And this is indeed cool.  After a ridiculous amount of ado, we actually got a check for the movie!  The mad tangle of hoops which defines movie distribution was boldly and defiantly navigated by a little bitty check with numbers and “$” sign on it.  Though it weighs a fraction of an ounce, its arrival in our mailbox is actually quite magnitudinous. (Yes, “magnitudinous” is a word, appropriately rare and justly invoked for this occasion.)

It means that someone on the other side of the world saw our movie, wanted it, received its components, arranged for its distribution, paid for it, and some of that money actually found its way back to us. The archaic system actually WORKED! On November 2nd, people in Japan will be able to buy the DVD!  Other Asian territories are soon to follow.

There is a certain “legit”-ness that comes with actually being paid for a movie. A certain “full circle”-ness about it all. A sadomasochistic satisfaction of having our movie on a shelf somewhere: “Ha ha you naysayers and oh how the pain was worth it!” Well, that last bit maybe not so much.  But Ali and I are very happy and very grateful for everyone who has been part of this adventure. And we have new respect for the sci-fi instincts of the people of Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam!

SO, you may be wondering, “What kind of money are we talking about?” Very little, unfortunately. I don’t make a dime off this check! But you may find “how it works” interesting…

Ali and I funded about 80-90% of the movie budget ourselves. The rest came as investment from friends and family, and from generous donations, like from our Kickstarter peeps.  Additionally, the movie is very much in debt, having borrowed significant sums to fund its completion. So before the movie can profit, first it must pay its creditors, then it must pay its “deferred” contractors (people who worked for low rates in exchange for potential back-end payments), then it must repay the investors. THEN it will actually profit and people can start making money. And of course, out of each “sale” price (meaning the amount a “buyer” pays for rights to distribute the movie in a given territory), a horde of fees are taken—distributor fees, market fees, SAG fees, etc. And then there are the wonderful accounting, marketing, festival, etc etc etc. fees.  And taxes.

But regardless… it’s a check.  AND, there’s even more light at the end of the tunnel.  Right now 95ers is at one of the biggest film markets in the world: MIPCOM in Cannes. At the end of the month, it’s off to LA for AFM, the American Film Market. Please send us your prayers and vibes. We’re hoping hoping hoping to snag a European and domestic deal!

I know many of you have NOT yet seen the movie! My distributor and I and working very hard to remedy that! Thanks for your patience. I didn’t design this archaic system. But… my next project may circumvent it a bit. Stay tuned for that…

Anyway, here’s the big project I recently cranked out at my wonderful day job, with the help of lots of talented people.  3D projection mapping and augmented reality live performance… it’s all the rage.  Some of you may recognize the voice of the high-tech narrator…

 

If the video box doesn’t show up in your email, click on this link to see it.

Race to the RED CARPET

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It’s a flat out sprint to the August 18th premiere.  Final special effects and compositing, color correction, and ominous freeway signs rusting away in enigmatic sci-fi bliss…

I say “sprint.”  More like a painful slog to the peak of mountain, with all kinds of mudslides to dodge and scramble over.  Somewhat like the 95ers character J. T. Kennings, who figuratively duels with history’s great minds, I find myself in mortal combat with the formidable foes enemies known to special effects people as “Roto” and “Render.”  No matter how feverishly I thrust and parry, I can only stare as the invincible render bars make their interminable 32-bit maneuvers.  Sometimes I try and catch a wink of sleep.  But the render bar is my neighbors’ best friend, since during one rare daytime render, I ran out and mowed my neglected eyesore of lawn.

This will probably be one of my last posts before the premiere.  Everything is looking and sounding great.  A mountain work is still to be done.  Fortunately, we have a timespace-crunching particle acclerator at our disposal.  Thanks to so many people, this microbudget sci-fi indie is turning out to be quite an awesome little flick!!

There are a few quantum paradoxes that have not quite fit into our accelerator, such as the creation of the musical score as it was originally intended.  My brother James and I laid the foundation of the amazing 95ers universe together.  By design, this particular movie is the tip of the tip of the iceberg of what 95ers has to offer.  We’ve both invested a lot to get this far, and many times James has prevented me from throwing the footage off a cliff when I was facing some new seemingly insurmountable challenge.  And now he’s lending his prodigious audio skills to the project, mixing and sound designing the movie.  To many, James and I may seem like aliens from another planet.  But we actually do have only one head each… And there is a ludicrous number of hats to be worn on a project like this, and only so much time.  James and I have decided that it would best if we found a different composer to do the musical score.

I know this comes as a disappointment to many of you, and the kickstarter folks will be receiving an alternate reward TBA instead of James’ album.  We’ll have great music for the movie at the premiere, but it will most likely be temporary, until a new composer can be settled on.  Thanks everyone for rolling with us on the crazy trip through this adventure.

Also in the news, stay tuned for the mega awesome new trailer to be released shortly after the premiere…

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Death of an Indie

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When people ask me about my movie, what they usually ask is something like: “So how do you get it out there?”

Or in other words, how does a nobody get their movie in theaters or on Netflix or into stores?  In fundraising, the most typical question seems to have been: “Do you have distribution?”  And in fact, when I first embarked on this journey, that was the biggest obstacle in my own mind—getting it seen.  Little did I know that was the least of my worries.

For most of the people I’ve met, filmmaker or no, the great and mystical gate in filmmaking where success is on one side and failure is on the other is the gate of “getting it seen.”  Also known as “distribution” or “getting picked up.”  This is the point at which a giant creative blob that seems to be only an eccentric hobby, suddenly becomes something useful and worthwhile.  It is creativity legitimized.

I was fully steeped in this fallacy.

The truth is, as any artist whose creative aspirations have been in the emergency room for most of their existential existences will tell you, the distributor’s gateway is absolutely not the plague an artist needs to worry about.  Most indie movies die horrible deaths long before the question “So how do we get it out there?” is ever seriously addressed.  In fact, I would hazard to say that a careful autopsy of 99.99% of indie ventures would reveal that distribution problems had nothing to do with their demise.  Perhaps the fear of non-distribution plays a role, but rarely non-distribution itself.

And here’s why: Indie movies hardly ever get finished.

Here are some of the true terminal illnesses which plague indie movies:

  1. Too many great ideas—the filmmaker has so many great stories in his head, he just can’t settle on one long enough to write a script.  These movies die young.
  2. The script never gets finished—the filmmaker realizes the entire script needs to be re-written, and the task is so daunting she throws down her scalpel and leaves the patient dying on the table.
  3. The money runs out—the rich uncle’s blood type is actually not O-negative (universal), meaning he just doesn’t invest in ‘anything,’ and the filmmaker himself only gets $60 a pint when he donates.
  4. “Dammit Jim, I’m a pizza delivery guy, not a physician!!!”  The filmmaker looks down at her instruments and her patient and is struck by a sudden fear—what am I doing here??  She is convinced (by herself or others) that her lack of training or talent will only lead the project to disaster!
  5. Seeing ghosts—phantoms, relatives of #4, emerge all over the hospital where the filmmaker is trying to save his movie.  He thinks he’s been given some kind of second sight that allows him to see them.  But really it’s the shadow of his own fear that “opens his eyes” to the ghastly remains of all the creative projects that didn’t make it off the operating table.  Like banshees they croon their singsong tales of woe: “No money!  No time!  Your idea is lame!  Turn back now!”
  6. The man behind the doctor’s mask—the filmmaker is actually a charlatan who has no idea what he’s doing (which in and of itself is not a true reason for failure), and is too dumb or lacks the integrity to fess up.  The fair promises and blustering used to get people on board or string them along eventually reveal themselves and soon everyone is driven crazy, and eventually everyone is driven away, leaving the filmmaker to his own faulty devices and pitiful excuses.
  7. The creative team dissolves—it’s right during the catastrophic organ failure at some stage of the production process that one of the doctors on the elite team realizes he or she is hemorrhaging themselves.
  8. Will to live—the filmmaker has called the ambulance so many times, and has been in the ICU overlooking the comatose movie venture for so long, she’s forgotten what makes the thing worth saving in the first place.  She begins to search for enough reasons and tries to find enough consolation, to pull the plug.

Indie movies don’t fail because they don’t get picked up for distribution.  For the most part, they fail because they don’t get finished.  The making of the first movie in the 95ers universe—the movie that took me over 10 years to make—has been a series of disasters...

Click here to flash forward to the end of the story.